Tuesday, June 30, 2009

To My Kind Commenters

This is for all of you dear folks who take the time to leave a comment here.

I am slowly but surely working on responding to each of you at your own blogs.
I really do appreciate it when you leave me a note here. Doing life often prevents me from being a timely correspondent.

Thanks so much for your patience and understanding.


Monday, June 29, 2009

TOS Homeschool Crew Review: The 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Planner

Summer is officially here, and for a lot of homeschool Moms (including this one) that means it's time to plan and organize! One of my favorite past times is sitting down with pen and paper to make a plan for the upcoming school year, and since I love all things organizational, I was excited to have the chance to review The Old Schoolhouse Planner.

First of all, this is a home and school planner that has been "supersized". It comes in downloadable pdf format (e-book form), and it's chock full of more resources and forms than you can imagine. Take a look at the Table of Contents here.

See what I mean? When you purchase this planner you'll have access to over 300 pages of planning forms for school and home, calendars, recipes, must-know information lists, helpful articles written by well-known homeschoolers, and more than I can list here. This planner meets so many needs, even for someone like me who usually likes to design there own planning book.

So, what are my favorite features of the 2009-2010 TOS Planner?

-It's Customizable: I can tailor the planner to meet my needs by printing only the forms I need.

-It's Type-able: I can type in my information right into the PDF planner document on the computer and then print it out.

-It's Pen and Paper Friendly: If I don't wish to do my planning on the computer, I can just print out the blank forms I need, put them in a binder, and write out my plans the old-fashioned way!

-The Recipes: These dishes look delicious and easy to prepare - the kind of recipes I'm always looking for. :)

-The Educational Information Sheets: I like the idea of having a list of the Presidents, planets, states and capitals, famous artists, a history timeline, and other basic reference information right at my fingertips.

-The Goal Sheets: I like having goals written down for each student right where I can see them everyday. These help me to see the "big picture" and keep things in perspective.

-The Homeschool Book Inventory: I have needed this for a long time! You can list your homeschool library contents alphabetically or by subject - no more digging around looking for a certain book.

-The Homeschool Supply Inventory: A great checklist that can also serve as a shopping list for things you need to stock up on.

-The Wish List: Of course, we all need one of these. Now when I read about a cool product on a blog or see something in a catalog, I can jot it down in my planner and note the price and where I can purchase it.

Is there anything I would change about the planner?

Yes, just a couple of things:

-For me, the weekly lesson planning pages have more subject rows than I need, making the boxes that you write in smaller than I'd like. This might not be an issue for other people. I really like to make and use my own special weekly lesson planning forms. I don't think any company could ever produce one that would please picky old me! :)

-The price of the planner is $39.00 and you really do get a lot for your money. However, I'm not sure if I personally would pay quite that much for it. My issue here is more with e-books in general - not just this particular product. I think that each individual has to take a look at what you get for your money, decide how much of it you are going to use, and then figure in the cost of printing (and possibly binding) to decide if the price is right for you. Again, I think this is the case with many e-books I've encountered, and I'm still not quite sure how I feel about pricing on digital products (because of the printing and binding that I'll need to pay for). *However, there are some of you out there who may not even want to print it out, but will use the type-able features and view your planner straight from your computer monitor. If you're one of those folks, then obviously you won't need to figure in the cost of printing.

Overall, I think that the new 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Planner is a very well-done organizational tool and time-saver that will meet just about everyone's needs.

I encourage you to read more about this product and view some of the sample pages over at The Old Schoolhouse Store where you can purchase the planner as well.

Also, you can click on the TOS Crew Banner below to read more reviews of this product.

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the planner after you take a good look at it.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Friday Favorites on Saturday

The blogs I subscribe to had oodles of terrific ideas this week. Several of these will make great additions to our workboxes, and the rest will make for some plain old summer fun!

Jolanthe at Homeschool Creations makes the most wonderful learning tools and shares them for free! This is a great beginning spelling resource with pictures of three-letter words and letter tiles that you can download and print onto cardstock.

Jimmie's Collage shares how she uses mini-books not only in lapbooks but also as reference tools like this parts of speech layer book.

Chasing Cheerios shows how to use an old calendar to make this new twist on a matching game.

This q-tip counting tray at Mama Jenn's will make a great workbox activity.

Let's Explore shares a great tangram activity bag with links to templates.

Little Hands Big Work has created a wonderful play and learning tool for littles. You've got to check out her Big Busy Book and her Bitty Busy Book.

Also at Chasing Cheerios, a Sweet Pea Tee-Pee that any child would have a ball playing in!

Crazy Kings shows how to give your children a secret message using a white crayon and watercolors. You could use this in so many ways.

Oh, the simple joys of childhood...I remember walking on tin can stilts like these that Zakka Life shares.

This Lemonade Art caught my eye because we're going to set up a lemonade stand this summer.

The 4th of July is right around the corner, and it's one of my favorite holidays to celebrate. The sisters at Roots and Wings are having a family July 4th Carnival and share all of their wonderful games here! These are terrific and would be easily adaptable to any theme.

I'd love to see what you found in your blog reader this week!

Friday, June 26, 2009

St. Simons Island Lighthouse

Now that I've scaled our post-vacation mountain of laundry, I finally have the chance to upload our photos and blog about our trip!

I've mentioned before that St. Simons Island, Georgia, is one of my favorite places on earth. I visited family there nearly every summer of my childhood and looked forward to it each year. I fell so completely in love with the island that I moved there my first year out of college. I only lived there for a year, but returned to visit a couple of years later as a new bride, and later as a new mother. Superman, Giggly Girl, and Sweet Pea each experienced the ocean for the first time at East Beach on St. Simons.

Aside from the personal memories that this place holds for me, the island is steeped in beauty, romance, and history.

One of the island's most famous landmarks is it's lighthouse. Built in 1872, it replaced the original light that dated back to 1807, which was burned during the Civil War by evacuating Confederate soldiers so that Federal troops could not use it as a navigational aid. It stands 104 feet tall on the south end of the island and continues to serve as a fully functional lighthouse, shining seaward every night and during inclement weather.

This is only the second time we've climbed the light as a family. The last time was when Superman was three years old and not so much the history buff that he is now. (Any guesses on where he gets that from?) Needless to say, we had to visit the lighthouse, and the kids were begging to climb it.

Here are a few pictures from our day:
In front of the Keeper's Cottage at the base of the light. Inside we got a glimpse of how the lightkeeper and his family lived.

From the looks of the parlor and bedrooms, and from seeing pictures of the elegantly dressed families who lived in the house, we got the idea that this was not a bad job to be had in the 19th century.

After our tour of the home, it was time to climb!

This was Giggly Girl's and Sweet Pea's first trip to the top, and they had a ball!

One-hundred twenty nine steps later - we made it! This view is looking east out into the Atlantic.

This marker at the base of the lighthouse marks the site of an old British fort. I'll post later about our visit to Fort Frederica, which is mentioned on this sign.

This cannon is similar to the ones that were used to defend Fort St. Simons. For some reason, our kids love to crawl all over cannons. You'll see similar pictures in another post!

A walk on the beach with Daddy after our tour.

This photo is from last summer, but I wanted to give you an idea of how the lighthouse looks from a distance.

Thanks for indulging the nostalgic, history-lover in me. I hope you've enjoyed your tour!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Making Time for Fun

As much as I love our homeschooling lifestyle, I feel like some of the fun, silly, just-being-a-kid stuff gets pushed aside for school and housework. This summer I really want us to enjoy some playtime together without necessarily looking for the learning moment.

These are some things that I've read about or the children have asked to do, and I just haven't gotten around to them. Well we're making time now!

1. Ice Block Treasure Hunt

2. Make Ooblek

3. Trace around each child's body on butcher paper and let them decorate with markers or paint or however they want.

4. Make a growth chart. (We're going to make one that looks like a gigantic carrot to go along with one of our favorite books, The Carrot Seed.)

5. Have a lemonade stand on our street corner.

6. Sit down and look at baby photos and other family photos together.

7. Paint with pudding. (We did this when Superman and Giggly Girl were toddlers, but we haven't since, and they still ask to do it!)

8. Make mud pies. (We've done this once, but Sweet Pea was a baby and didn't get to join in the fun.)

9. Wash the car together.

10. Play the Wii with them - instead of letting them play it while I cook supper.

I'll keep you updated on how we're doing with our list!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Daddy Built A Sandbox!

I've been meaning to share this for over a month and keep forgetting to post it.

Recently the kids and I were gone most of the day on a field trip, and when we returned home this is what we found in the backyard!

I knew Kurt bought the materials awhile back, but I didn't know that he was going to build it that day.

The kids were ecstatic! They got in there and played for two whole hours - fully content. I love it when my kids are thrilled by the old-fashioned, simple things in life...like playing in a sandbox. :)

Thanks, honey, for such a wonderful surprise. You're the best!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew

While we were on vacation, I found out that I will have the opportunity to be a part of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew this year. This group of homeschooling parents reviews products for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and shares those reviews on their personal blogs and on the TOS Crew blog.

I am excited that I'll be able to share my thoughts on a variety of different products with you, and every now and then I'll have the chance to offer a product in a giveaway for my readers!

The Crew officially sets sail in July, but in the meantime you can sail over to the Crew's Official Blog and check out some wonderful reviews that these ladies wrote last year. Also, you will always be able to access the Crew Blog by clicking on the TOS Homeschool Crew button in my left-hand sidebar. Enjoy!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Favorites

We're home, and I'm busy unpacking and climbing out from under a mountain of laundry. With Father's Day being this Sunday, I decided to take a break and surf around for some handmade gift ideas.

Not sure which one(s) we'll be doing yet, but I hope you and your kids find something fun to make for your special guy. :)

Photo Coffee Sleeve - This one requires some minimal sewing skills, which I don't have, but I still wanted to share because it's a neat idea.

Painted Coffee Mug - Since Kurt is a die hard coffee drinker and our children love to paint, he might wind up with three of these.

Best Dad Can Cooler

I love these Watercolor Resist Silhouettes! What a special gift they would be for Daddy, and you could use this method with a thousand other ideas too.

Coffee Can Tool Caddy

Daddy's Helper Toolbox - I like this one. It's easy to make, and the kids get to think of ways they can help out Dad!

This a is a fun "Daddyland" coupon book at the Disney Family site. We'll definitely print this one out!

King of the Grill Apron - Easy and Useful!

Necktie Magnet Bookmarks - These look cute, useful, and easy to make.

Necktie Card

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Travel Notebook

We're headed home today, and I thought I'd quickly share with you the travel notebooks I've put together for the children.

(I got the Travel Notebook idea from Jamin', and this is the first time we're trying them out. I think this will be a fun way to learn while we're riding down the road!)

Each child will have a 3-ring binder with the following: (I know some of this might be a bit much for our 3-yr. old, but she wants to do everything the big kids do.)

-Travel Activity Book Cover

-Road Signs Bingo -

-Car Bingo: Print out the cards below, give one to each child along with a crayon, and have them put an X over the things they see on the road. Four in a row is a Bingo!

Card 1
Card 2
Card 3
Card 4
Card 5
Card 6

-Roadside Bingo

-Check out this State License Plate game - Include alphabetical list of the fifty states, a U.S. map, or both.

-U.S.A. and individual state maps to color

-coloring/activity sheets for state symbols

-Great resource for information activity sheets for each of the fifty states.

For more travel fun ideas, see my Road Trip Survival Guide.

I'll be back in a couple of days after we settle in at home. :)

**Update** We're home, and we really enjoyed these games and activities. I wanted to let you know that the State License Plate game was a favorite for Giggly Girl, Superman, and Kurt and me. Looking for different plates made the time go by quickly, and we found twenty-two different states! Sweet Pea mainly enjoyed doodling and coloring on the state maps, flags, and birds. :)

Monday, June 15, 2009

I'm Not Here Today

We're still on the road, but I posted over at The Curriculum Choice today. I've written a review of Reading Made Easy, a wonderful reading curriculum that I used to teach Superman to read and am currently using with Giggly Girl. If you want to read more about it, click on the button at the top of this post.

Have a great Monday!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Favorites

We will "lightly school" this summer, but I also want to do some of the fun things that we don't always have time for during the regular school year. I've enjoyed surfing around for some inspiration. Here is an assortment of things that struck my fancy. Enjoy!

Origami for Kids

Nail, Screws and Cardboard Boxes - You've got to check out this simple but fun activity.

Shower Curtain Village Play Mat at Filth Wizardry

Colorful, bubbling, magical concoctions from Seven - What child doesn't enjoy playing chemist? Easy peasy with minimal cleanup.

A really interesting site with directions for building/making some neat toys, projects, and other interesting gizmos to be played with. My hubby will have fun doing some of these with our little inventors and builders.

We made these flower pens in MOPS a few years ago, and I was just thinking the other day that they would be fun to do with the girls for our gardening unit.

These garden markers over at By Little Hands would look pretty in any vegetable garden.

Currently Crafting shows you how to decorate these adorable Paint-Tin Flower Pots.

I love this idea from The Artful Parent for a Mom and child summer fun to-do list! We're definitely doing this when we return home.

Scrumdilly-Do shares a unique boredom buster using my children's favorite - Playdough!

These little Soap Boats over at Kiddio would be fun and easy for the children to make, and I know they'd love playing with them in the tub.

These mailboxes are a definite on my to-do list. My little ones would just love having these in their rooms for me to leave an occasional note or treat in. (This how-to is also from Currently Crafting - I'm lovin' her blog!)

No Time For Flashcards - This is the cutest lacing card I've ever seen, and the best part is that it teaches letters.

My kids have been begging for a marble run, so I think we'll make this recycled one from One Crafty Place.

I hope you've enjoyed these ideas and found something fun to try!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My Road Trip Survival Guide

We have traveled many a mile by car and by air with our children since our oldest was six weeks old. Things have really changed since that first five-hundred mile road trip with our baby boy. Instead of those newborn cries to be held and fed and changed, we now hear things like, "Are we there yet?", "I need to go potty!", and "She's got my toy!"

Like most families, sometimes we hit a few "bumps" in the road when we travel, but in spite of those, we really do get excited about family road trips. Right now we're on vacation, and by the time we arrive home we will have traveled over 1,600 miles through six states. So far, we've had a lot of fun in the car, and everyone is still happy. :)

Over the years we've learned that it helps to have some tricks up our sleeve to keep our travelers content. Obviously the tricks have changed as the children have grown, but here are a few things that work well for us right now.

1. Music can lift even the grumpiest spirit.
Singing in the car is something I grew up doing on family vacations, so it seems natural to me for us to make music together while we ride down the road. And my sweet hubby who didn't grow up singing in the car joins in too. :) Sometimes we belt it out acapella, and other times we sing-along with the radio. I usually keep a variety of CD's in the van at all times, but on long trips I try to include some new selections with our regulars just to keep everyone interested. We listen to Veggietales, Wee Sing collections, Scripture Rock, Laurie Berkner, and for this trip I'm bringing along some sing-n-learn type CD's to learn States and Capitals, Presidents, etc. (We've also trained our children from day one to enjoy "grown-up" music too. This helps Mommy and Daddy to keep their sanity. :) We listen to classical, oldies, and Christian contemporary.)

2. Language Arts can happen on the road!
Books on Tape and audio stories have been lifesavers for us on long trips. A few faves that we own are Green Eggs and Ham, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Corduroy, Adventures in Odyssey, Your Story Hour, and all kinds of stories told by Jim Weiss.

3. Car games beat video games any day.
Back in the day before gameboys I remember the excitement of counting cows, looking for letters on billboards, and playing "Beetle!" Here is a list of old and new car games that have been hits for us:

-Road Sign ABC - Starting with "A" and going in order, try to find each letter of the alphabet on a billboard, road sign, store sign, or whatever. Because our children are still pretty young, we do this as a team, but with older children you could let everybody do it individually and see who gets to "Z" first!

-Colors of the Rainbow - Play just like "Road Sign" but instead of letters you're looking for colors. Make sure to find them in ROYGBIV order, and you're kids will have the colors of the rainbow memorized in no time. :)

-Counting Cars - Everybody chooses a different color and then counts cars only of their chosen color. First one to 10 wins. You'll need to help younger ones with this one - sometimes those cars whiz by too fast for little eyes to spot on their own.

-Counting Cows - O.K. I probably don't need to explain this one, but here are a couple of twists. Everyone choose a cow color - you know, brown, white, black, spotted, etc. and play it like "Counting Cars". Or...passengers on the left side of the car count cows on the left, and passengers on the right side count cows on the right. If you pass a cemetery you have to start over at zero!

-"I went on a trip and I took..." - Remember this classic? Here's our simplified version for youngers. Someone starts the game by saying, "I went on a trip and I brought a ________ with me", filling in the blank with something beginning with "A". The next person repeats the sentence but chooses to bring something beginning with "B", and so on. You go around the car taking turns until you've completed the whole alphabet. This one was a real hit with our passengers!

-I Spy - Our kids absolutely love this game, but of course in a moving car, you're pretty much limited to things inside the car or the green grass and blue sky outside the car. :)

-Twenty Questions, the Animal Version - Someone thinks of an animal and everyone takes turns asking a yes or no question in order to guess the animal. The yes or no question part is kind of a difficult concept for wee ones, but they can still ask questions like "What color is it?" or "What sound does it make?"

-Pop Quiz! - Because I don't do any testing in our homeschooling, it never occurred to me that my children might actually enjoy being quizzed, but amazingly enough, they sometimes do! The car is a great place to see what they can remember. I have a list of questions that I pull from to ask them all sorts of things -presidents, continents, cloud types, composers - really anything that we've read or learned about. Just to make it more interesting, I'm thinking of printing some questions out and cutting them into strips so that my travelers can draw them from a cup.

We're also trying out some other games this trip that require paper and crayon. I'll talk about those soon in a post about our travel notebooks.

4. Pack your bags!Our children love packing their own little backpack or tote bag with toys of their choosing to have handy in the car. I also try to bring along my own bag of goodies - some educational, some just plain fun - that I can dole out gradually if boredom sets in.

Some of the things I like to bring:
-pad of paper
-colored pipe cleaners (for twisting, tying, creating)
-aluminum foil (fun for crinkling and molding into any kind of sculpture!)
-Wiki Stix
-playdough or silly putty
-mini magnadoodle
-mini etch-a-sketch
-trading cards
-small books or magazines (We enjoy Our Big Backyard.)
-lacing cards

(By the way, I don't go out and buy all new stuff for their boxes. Most of these are things we already have that I've held back for awhile, and they've been forgotten.)

5. Stop and smell the roses.
O.K. Dads, this one requires you to add an hour or so to your ETA, but it's usually worth it. (Just try to think about what it would feel like to be buckled into a child's car seat for hours on end with no break. Personally, I'd go nuts!) We try to stop about every two hours for a potty and stretch break. Even little people in diapers need to get out and walk around a bit. If there's an interesting landmark or other unique sight to see, we try to take an extra couple of minutes and check it out. Just think, you might learn something that you can count as school.

6. Don't forget that special blankie, stuffed toy or whatever. No explanation needed!

7. When all else fails, feed them.
Let's face it, when things are looking desperate sometimes you just have to pull out the snacks! I think it's nice to throw in a treat or two in addition to the healthy fare. Here a few of our favorites for the road: trail mix, cheez-its, yogurt-covered raisins, apples, grapes, celery and carrot sticks, organic gummy bears, Cracklin' Oat Bran cereal, Caprisuns, and water bottles.

I hope that you've found something new here to try on your next road trip, and I'd really like to hear your favorite tips for happy travels!

Monday, June 8, 2009

At Home on St. Simons

Earlier today we arrived here on beautiful St. Simons Island, Georgia. Honestly, this is one of my favorite places on earth. I spent time here almost every summer of my life visiting my Aunt Elaine, Uncle Danny, and my dear cousin Danielle, who is more like a little sister than a cousin.

I fell in love with the island when I was a child, and determined at a young age that I would live here one day. And I did...during my first year as a rookie school teacher right out of college. God had plans to take me elsewhere after that, but I continued to visit almost every year. Eventually I returned as a new bride, and later as a new mother. There are such sweet memories here...

I'll post again in a few days with some island pictures to share with you. :)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

On the Road

Just a quick note to say that we are on vacation!

We've traveled many miles down to Georgia to visit my parents and help them finish moving to their new home. My mother and I have shared laughs and shed tears as we've sorted through mementos and memories together.

I can't wait to blog about the three boxes of children's books that we came across, which I thought were lost forever. I literally shouted for joy when Mama found them.

Next week we'll head out for St. Simons Island, Georgia - one of my favorite spots on earth. We're looking forward to a beach vacation on that beautiful and historical little island. We're also hoping to make a daytrip to nearby Jekyll Island to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and learn about loggerheads.

Internet access is sporadic where we are right now, but hopefully it will be better in a few days, and I'll be back with some ideas for taking happy road trips with children. ;)